For 110 years, since the doors of the National Institute of Standards and Technology opened, scientists there have calibrated mercury thermometers to read correct temperatures for users in the aerospace, pharmaceutical, petroleum and other industries.
That legacy soon will end.
Beginning March 1, the Gaithersburg-based federal agency no longer will provide that calibration service. The move is part of a larger government program to reduce dependence on industrial mercury thermometers, which in some cases are less reliable than newer technology, said Greg Strouse, a physicist and leader of NIST’s Temperature and Humidity Group.
The program is being led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which issued a memorandum in September 2008 calling for the phase-out of all mercury, non-fever thermometers used in EPA laboratories.